Posted in Advocacy, Identity, School Leadership

On Being Without

I had a humbling experience this week.

I had to admit we couldn’t serve the needs a child had and counsel the parents out of our school.

By way of backstory, my own child was kicked from his Catholic school for being Autistic when he was in pre-school.  We ended up homeschooling.  He’s happy, and we’re happy.

It was not handled well and we left our church because we were pushed out, not counseled.

But I just had to do it to another family.

The older child was not a problem, really.  He would get ragey and might throw things, but really, we had warnings.  With warnings, I can redirect, and so can the teacher.  I’d bring him to the office with me and give him a project or put an iPad in front of him to refocus until the danger passed.  No big deal.

And yes, for most religious schools, this would have been a VERY BIG DEAL.  But he got the “rage face” like my little guy.  Rage face means redirect.  Redirect quickly.  I did and we were usually okay.

The younger child would give no warnings and did what looked like a meltdown, but was clearly a temper tantrum.  I know the difference all too well.  With a temper tantrum, they gauge reactions and see what you’ll do.  Children in meltdown can’t stop based on what you do, nor can they gauge your reactions.  Her rage and jealousy did not seem to have a cause other than pure hatred of her sibling, which is quite dangerous at such a young age.  We do not have counselors on staff.  We can’t afford them.

Her rage and jealousy would set off the two Neurodivergent children in the class, and the neurotypicals were picking up negative behaviors from her.

No one was learning.

She needed to go, and, sadly and predictably, they pulled the older child as well.

While the conversation was gentle and kind, the other parent convinced the first parent that we were evil people so now they hate us and can’t wait to badmouth us all over town and they will leave our church.

This family doesn’t have much social or cultural (or any other kind of) capital.  They will not go far with their words, and even if they did, no one would fully believe their likely twisted version of this.

In the end, I loved these kids a whole bunch, but because we don’t have enough money for the needs of the one, the other had to go, too.  And the parents, too, did not have the means to put their children into counseling, nor did they fully understand why they needed it.  We didn’t have time to wait for them to see why it was necessary or the other children, including her Neurodivergent older brother, would suffer.

And we knew already this was a family reluctant to diagnose anything.  With the boy, we knew what he had (or could guess) and so we worked around the lack of diagnosis.  With him, the known Neurodivergent one, we knew needed patience and love, and he got it.  We could do that.

The one we can’t peg was the one we couldn’t help.  We didn’t k now what she was feeling and I doubt she did either.  Because none of us have real psychological training, we couldn’t guess.

I worry about both of these children in larger classes, but have to trust that access to counselors may help unravel this faster, and with minimal damage to the children we have left.  I have to trust that being in a building with more adults to separate a tantrumming child will help her to get help and also allow the teacher to keep teaching her classmates.

I know I did this with integrity and love.  I didn’t “get rid” of the problem, we counseled.  We offered love and support.  We offered to have them back if they could ever figure out what’s causing it.  We repeatedly invited them to religious education.

But the first thing I said to my husband tonight was, “Okay, so I need to find the money for a counselor.”

Because I don’t want it to happen again.

My teachers make well under $30,000/year, and I make just over that.  We have no insurance offered because we can’t afford it.

And I want a counselor.

I’m going to have to hope God figures that one out, because I really, really, don’t want to have to do that again.

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